Observations of an Expat: Brexit is BIG

June 17, 2016 OPINION/NEWS

 

By

Tom Arms

Next Thursday and Friday are BIG news days. Allow me to reinforce that through repetition. Next Thursday and Friday are BIG news days. The tail end of the next working week could go down as a historic watershed.

At 7am the British electorate will start marching to polling stations to vote whether to leave or remain in the European Union. At 10pm the stations close and some time in the early hours of Friday morning London time the world will know the British decision with its far-reaching repercussions.

The determining issues are clear: Economic prosperity and European political stability v sovereignty and control of immigration.

The arguments are strong on both sides. Yes, the 16th most densely populated country in the world cannot sustain net immigration of 336,000 people a year—half from EU countries. Yes, the British have to relinquish some of their sovereignty for Europe to work.

On the other side: Yes, the economy will suffer a severe setback if Britain withdraws from the EU and this will adversely impact on over-stretched and under-financed public services. Yes, the EU is one of the main reasons for 61 years of peace in Europe and British withdrawal will damage its stability.

 

 

 

The debate has been vicious. Both camps have accused the other of scaremongering, lies, distortions, half-truths and conspiracy theories. The ruling Conservative party has split down the middle and there are doubts about the party and government’s ability to recover which ever way the vote goes.

This week Conservative Chancellor George Osborne warned of an emergency budget with tax rises and spending cuts if the voters vote leave. Within the hour, 52 conservative MPs said they would refuse to support such a budget. David Cameron’s government has a working majority of only 12. You do the arithmetic.

 

The level of the political debate and the regard for British politicians has been brought to n historic new low by the Brexit debate.

And is not just the politicians’ image that has suffered. The whole country looks bad. In the streets, shopping centres and at parties people shout insults while pointedly refusing to listen. The debate has destroyed friendships and split families.

The Brexit debate may even be behind the horrific murder of a pro-EU MP Jo Cox. Her assassin is reported to have shouted “Britain First” before shooting her point blank in the head and then stabbing her repeatedly.

 

 

 

The British have long been admired for their intelligence, education, reasoned debate and mutual respect. Brexit is a frightening exception. Perhaps, because the importance of the result of Thursday’s vote is just so overwhelming for so many voters.

Thursday’s voters carry the burden of responsibility for generations to come with ripples that extend well beyond British shores.

Over the past few decades the British have become expert at self-deprecation. They have convinced themselves that having lost an empire the home of parliamentary democracy and the land of Shakespeare, Newton, Locke, Wellington,  Darwin, Dickens, Austen, Gladstone and Churchill now counts for little in the world.

They pay little heed to the fact that Britain has had more Nobel Prize winners per head of population than all the other countries in the world put together. At the end of last year it passed almost without notice that London leapfrogged New York as the world’s number one financial centre or that four out of the top ten universities in the world are in the UK.

The fact is that Britain is one of the world’s pacesetters. It is looked upon as an example to follow, partly because of a glorious past but also because it is admired as a country that was financially destroyed by two world wars, lost an empire and then somehow pulled itself out of an economic morass to be the world’s fifth largest economy.

Whichever way the vote goes people around the world will point to Blighty and say “The British did it, so can we.”

 

 

 

 

Tom Arms broadcasts on world affairs for a number of US radio stations including WTKF at http://www.wtkf107.com/. His Weekly Viewpoints discussion programme can be heard at 1830 EST on Wednesdays and his LookAhead at the next week’s main events on Fridays at 1800.

 

LookAhead Radio World Report for week commencing 20th June:

 

 

 

Tom Arms

I am a journalist, entrepreneur and historian with extensive experience in print, web and broadcast journalism. I started as a diplomatic correspondent, wrote several books (The Falklands Crisis, World Elections On File and the Encyclopedia of the Cold War), and then in 1987 started my own business (Future Events News Service, www.fensinformation.com) which over 25 years established itself as the world and UK media’s diary. Our strapline was: “We set the world’s news agenda.” I sold FENS in December 2012 but retained the exclusive broadcast rights to all of FENS data. To exploit these rights I set up LookAhead TV which produces unique programmes which “Broadcasts Tomorrow Today” so that viewers can “Plan to Participate.” LookAhead has appeared regularly on Vox Africa, Radio Tatras International, The Conversation and Voice of Africa Radio.

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